Judge still wants more security | CraigDailyPress.com

Judge still wants more security

Brandon Johnson

During the Hugo Silva-Larios murder trial last week, metal detectors scanned every person entering the courtroom.

14th Judicial District Chief Judge Michael O’Hara would like to see that level of security on a regular basis at the Moffat County combined courts.

In April, O’Hara asked the Moffat County commissioners to provide entry-level security at the court, but the commissioners rejected the request.

At the time, the commissioners said the courtrooms had the “reasonable” level of security required by law. The commissioners also said adding metal detectors and a full-time sheriff’s deputy to scan people would cost too much.

O’Hara sent a letter to the commissioners Tuesday commending the Sheriff’s Office for the security during the Silva-Larios trial and asking the commissioners to reconsider their stance on courtroom security.

“Every day that we continue to operate without entry-level screening is one more day in which absolutely nothing prevents a tragedy,” O’Hara’s letter reads.

Moffat County Commissioner Saed Tayyara said he still thinks the courts have reasonable security.

“In my mind, we addressed the issue, and we are confident with where we are at the present time,” Tayyara said.

Current security at the court includes panic buttons for court employees and sheriff’s deputies available on request.

When the commissioners rejected O’Hara’s request, they said the Moffat County courts had equal security to 10 of 15 similar counties.

In his letter, Judge O’Hara disputes those numbers, saying Moffat County has less security than 10 of 18 similar counties.

Routt and Grand counties, which are part of the 14th Judicial District along with Moffat County, have metal detectors. The other counties that O’Hara says have more security have metal detectors or Sheriff’s Deputies on duty for the majority of the time court is in session.

O’Hara wrote in his letter that comparing Moffat County to similar counties is important, but he asks the commissioners to consider a variety of variables that affect courtroom security.

“The presence of serious drug problems in Moffat County, coupled with divorce cases, child custody and parental responsibility issues, dependency and neglect actions, and other high stress, high stakes cases is a dangerous combination,” the letter reads.

Commissioner Tayyara said that although he understands O’Hara’s concerns, increasing security is not a guarantee.

“We are all at risk the minute we wake up till the minute we go to bed,” Tayyara said.

Tayyara said the county can’t afford to provide a deputy to work full time at the courts without raising taxes, a move he opposes.

“I don’t believe in raising taxes,” Tayyara said.

Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead said the additional security during the Silva-Larios trial didn’t cost the Sheriff’s Office any extra money because he was able to juggle schedules.

The county has metal detectors, but Undersheriff Jerry Hoberg said having a full-time deputy work them would cost about $55,000 annually in salary and benefits.

Tayyara said he would be open to having a property tax increase on the ballot for additional court security, but he didn’t endorse raising taxes for security.

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